Beagle scored two goals against the Chicago Blackhawks in a 6-0 Washington win on Friday night, Wilson had the first three-point night of his career and Winnik had an assist and was a plus-two. Coach Barry Trotz doesn’t expect those three to contribute that much offensively every night, but as the Capitals have stretched their winning streak to eight games, that line has continued to be one of the team’s most reliable.
Trotz has refused to call the Beagle line a fourth line all season because he plays them in situations that seem to transcend that title. All three players log heavy minutes on the stingy penalty kill, ranked third in the league, and they’ve often been tasked with matching up against the opposition’s top lines at even strength, their grinding style of play capable of wearing teams down.
“They’re one that you can trust,” Trotz said. “They may not get a lot of goals, but they’re producing at a pretty decent rate. They’re playing the right way. They know that their role is to kill penalties. Their role is to stop good lines from scoring. They’re used in late-game situations. They’ve got a real good synergy about them, and their style complements each other.”
Said Beagle: “It builds our confidence, for sure. We don’t really look at ourselves as a fourth line and we want to contribute offensively and we feel like we can. When the coaching staff gives you minutes and in big situations — all year it’s been like that. It’s nice when he rolls four and you feel in the game and you feel better and I think the whole team feels better from it.”
Balanced scoring and minutes have been crucial for Washington during its most challenging stretch of the schedule. The Capitals have been playing every other day all month — and against good competition. Because the minutes of Washington’s top-six forwards have been reduced, the whole team has been able to play at a faster pace despite a lot of games in a short span.
The play of the Beagle line has rewarded Trotz’s trust, that he hasn’t hesitated deploying that trio at any point of a game. Beagle’s four goals in two games against the Blackhawks this season caused Trotz to crack that if he played in the Western Conference, he might score 50 goals a season.
He won’t score 50 goals this year, but Beagle already has as many points (17) as he did all of last season, and Winnik is on the best goal-scoring pace of his career with six through 32 games.
“It’s something that when you’re kind of rolling four [lines] it also saves the legs of the big-minutes guys,” Beagle said. “Coming into the third in a tight game, they might feel a little bit more fresh and yeah, it builds our game, too. It gives us a lot of confidence as a fourth line when Trotzy, all year he’s put us out in critical situations and stuff.”